Friday, December 16, 2005

Lieberman Situation Nothing Compared to GOP Defections

Much has been made in the media over the last week of Joe Lieberman's cozying up to President Bush and, against all evidence and reason, deciding that the Iraq war is good for America. It doesn't seem to bother Joe (DINO-CT) that we've spent $250 billion, lost or maimed thousands of our brave military men and women and snuffed the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis for nothing. But that's an issue for Connecticut Democrats to take up in the coming months as Lieberman's Senate seat comes back up for grabs.

What's interesting is how much the mainstream media has latched onto the Lieberman story as if one misguided, conservative Democratic agreeing with Bush is somehow a major paradigm shift in Washington. Even more ridiculously, some in the crazed, right-wing media have even suggested that it's a "turning point" in the Bush administration's mislead-and-deceive PR offensive on Iraq.

Nonsense. As Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) aptly put it last week when commenting on Lieberman, "... the story should be here that 40 senators, including one Republican, 39 Democrats voted for what is basically a timetable in the Senate and one Democrat disagreeing doesn't change that."

"I don't know if Senator Lieberman is listening to General Abizaid or General Casey, our top generals in that area, in that region – they say that our presence there is feeding the insurgency," added Feingold.

As Feingold implies on the Lieberman situation: So what? He's one guy who has always had right-leaning tendencies and who, for the most part, has never wavered in being a cheerleader for this war and this president – so what's the big news here?

On the other side of the aisle, the Republicans have no shortage of people who go against this president and that just doesn't seem to get a fraction of the coverage that Lieberman's disgraceful, turncoat behavior has garnered.

Chuck Hagel (R-NE) is a real rarity in the GOP. Not only is he a decorated Veteran – how many of those do you see in the Republican Chickenhawk Corps? – but he's been savaging the White House on Iraq throughout 2005.

"Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," said Hagel in June. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."

Hagel has also ridiculed Bush's frequent citing of a "coalition of the willing" as allies who have committed a relatively small number of troops and aid.

"It's a joke to say there's a coalition of the willing," Hagel said, adding that many are pulling out and the United States is fronting the bills for those who remain. Meanwhile. "we are destroying the finest military in the history of mankind, and the (National) Guard, too. We're stretching our Army to the breaking point."

And, as a Veteran, it's Team Bush's treatment of the troops that upsets Hagel the most.

"It has tormented me, torn me more than any one thing," he said, "to see what these guys in Iraq are having to go through and knowing what I know here: that we didn't prepare for it, we didn't understand what we were getting into. And to put those guys in those positions, it makes me so angry."

Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) has broken ranks with Bush on many major Senate votes, choosing instead to align himself with his Democratic colleagues. Chafee was the only Republican – and one of only 23 U.S. Senators – to vote against Joint Resolution 114, the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. So he was against the president on Iraq from the very beginning.

Chafee, who I truly wish would just stop the charade and come to our side, also voted every time for Democratic attempts to fund the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and both of Ted Kennedy's (D-MA) 2005 attempts to raise the federal minimum wage.

The guy's got a heart. How much more out of the Republican mainstream can he possibly be?

Finally, it's a very sharp stick in the eye that Chafee gave Bush when he was the lone Republican to vote against confirming Priscilla Owen as a Circuit Judge and when he joined only Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and Susan Collins (R-ME) as Republicans who banded with Democrats to vote against William Pryor's confirmation as a federal judge – both huge defections that received very little publicity.

And how about good old John McCain (R-AZ) and his major fight with Bush over why the United States should set a human rights example for the rest of the word – now there's a concept – and come down on the side of not torturing people? While Bush just caved in to McCain under the weight of 90+ Senators lined up against the White House, this has been a noteworthy departure from the party line as well.

So, yes, Lieberman is a pain in the butt and a daily topic that we would rather not have to address. But he always has been and he will be until, I hope, 2006, when Connecticut Democrats decide they've had enough of Republican-lite Joe and nominate someone else for Lieberman's Senate seat.

But it's important to keep this all in context and remember that, when it comes to frayed party loyalty, the GOP side of the aisle is coming apart at the seams, while the Democrats remain mostly on the same ideological page.